Partner at Ascendant Group, a global CEO and corporate branding firm helping CEOs increase the visibility for their companies
“Thought leadership” has been a buzzword across industries for years now. Thought leaders are experts in their field, providing the public with original and thought-provoking ideas. They immerse themselves in their practice and absorb as much information about their industry as they can in order to come up with unique points of view that bring new insights to their industry.
According to sources, Joel Kurtzman, the former editor-in-chief of strategy+business magazine, is the one who coined the term “thought leadership” in 1994. He defined it as one who “is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate.”
In this article, we’re going to talk about congressional thought leadership. What does this mean, and how is it beneficial from a CEO branding and executive visibility perspective to have a congressional thought leadership strategy?
It isn’t about politics; thought leadership is nonpartisan and is designed to help policymakers learn from professionals within the space. Despite what you see on TV, in my experience, the typical congressional staff and the majority of lawmakers simply want to write good law that helps business leaders. So throw your preconceived notions out the door, and come prepared to advise the legislative body.
A Two-Way Learning Street
The business world isn’t just B2B or B2C, there’s also H2H (human to human). The most integral part of being an executive, entrepreneur, etc., is to maintain and nurture your relationships as well as make more connections with people in your industry.
From a congressional standpoint, it is important to speak with lawmakers to keep your fingers on the pulse of new and upcoming legislation related to your industry. It is not only for your benefit but for theirs to exchange information and ideas to be more well rounded in your field. What better way to be an expert in your industry than consulting with our leaders?
These interactions can help you to learn the latest trends going on in your industry. Often legislation reflects perception. Recently, one of our clients, an IP attorney, participated in helping to advise on and then review legislation related to cryptocurrency. One of the things that came from this was learning that lawmakers weren’t fully aware of all the capabilities of blockchain and recognizing that the overall knowledge gap could be easily amended. Often, legislation is drafted by staffers who have not been in the professional environment, and hearing from industry professionals offers them a richer experience.
Congressional Thought Leadership In Action
I have seen just how effective congressional thought leadership strategy can be in my own work. For example, another client of ours in the education industry — who has received funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Walton Family Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies — was able to hear South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman’s stance and knowledge on education firsthand. Norman has an entrepreneurial work ethic, which is a characteristic I recommend looking for when determining who to work with. In my experience, having an entrepreneurial spirit makes people better to engage with; being relatable matters.
This client, who normally focuses on education in urban environments, discovered key alignment with rural education that helped the client expand their platform. Norman spoke with us about the education system in South Carolina. He brought up how 50% of the state’s budget goes to education, and discussed the state’s plan to help disadvantaged students get the education they deserve during the Covid-19 crisis. This perspective aligned with our client’s overall strategy and helped provide a road map for how to advocate for increasing budgets for disadvantaged students in other states.
Another client of ours, who works alongside veterans, connected with Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona, who is very active within the veteran community. Together they were able to bounce ideas and opinions off one another regarding veteran relief amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Our client was able to hear about the legislative actions the congressman was taking to “empower veterans not victimize them” in these trying times. Therefore, our client was able to better understand the congressional thought process of the cause he was most concerned about.
The information you can receive from members of government related to your industry is indispensable when trying to get a better grasp on where your own industry is headed.
Politics Meets Productivity
Ultimately, a congressional thought leadership strategy can go in a few different directions: providing industry perspective to members of Congress who can influence legislation or how they see issues going forward, participating in briefings in front of House or Senate staff, and ultimately congressional testimony.
If you thought all members of Congress did was bicker with each other and get nothing done, think again. This is when politics meets productivity. Thought leadership, as prominent as it is in today’s business world, can only accelerate your business as well as strengthen your credibility as an individual. Congressional thought leadership can be a major factor in this success. Business and legislation need to coexist, and without knowing the thoughts and ideas of our nation’s leaders and elected officials, you cannot fully understand your industry.
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Author: Raoul Davis, Forbes Councils Member